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A New Chamber Collective Perks Up a Café With a Coffee Cantata


Published November 15, 2023 at 10:00 a.m.

Cole Marino in Kestrel Coffee Roasters - DARIA BISHOP
  • Daria Bishop
  • Cole Marino in Kestrel Coffee Roasters

Johann Sebastian Bach knew about coffee addiction. He composed a miniature comic opera about it, called the Coffee Cantata. In the 30-minute work, a daughter defies her father's command to stop consuming the popular new drink — until he threatens to prevent her from marrying. But she forms a plan. After all, she must have her three cups a day or, in the words of one song, she'll "turn into a shriveled-up roast goat."

The cantata was first performed in a coffeehouse in Leipzig, Germany, around 1735. As relevant as ever today, it will be performed twice on Saturday, November 18, at Kestrel Coffee Roasters' Maple Street café in Burlington, by a newly minted musicians' collective.

That group is the Vermont Contemporary Chamber Collective. Last week, founder Cole Marino, 25, launched the group with an email, inviting more than 100 Vermont musicians and singers to join his "performer database." He wrote, "The aim is to bring new life to the performance of chamber repertoire, to challenge and enliven audiences and performers, and to build and strengthen community through innovative collaboration."

He hopes to accomplish that through creative events like Saturday's. Kestrel will offer a coffee tasting before the 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. performances, along with German pastries that would have been served back in 1735. Tickets are available online, but the café will remain open to regulars, who might end up hearing a soprano singing a love song to coffee while waiting for theirs.

That soprano role, Lieschen, will be sung by Lillian Broderick. Bass singer Erik Kroncke will portray Lieschen's father, Schlendrian — literally, "Stick in the Mud." Tenor Kevin Ginter sings the narrator. Marino will conduct the singers and six musicians.

Ginter, from Underhill, hasn't met Marino yet but appreciates the new collective. "The idea behind it is a good one," he said. "Doing this baroque cantata in a coffee shop in Burlington — that's such an easy, accessible thing."

Marino's musical talents vary widely. At age 9, he moved from Long Island, N.Y., to Williston with his two musician parents. He sang in the Essex Children's Choir, school musicals and the Vermont Youth Orchestra Chorus. He also played trumpet, trombone, euphonium, piano and organ. During high school, he decided he wanted to become a conductor.

He pursued all those interests at the Manhattan School of Music while focusing on voice performance. Back in Williston after graduation in 2020, he dove into community conducting jobs: Lyric Theatre's Into the Woods, Williston Community Theater's Little Shop of Horrors, Tuck Everlasting at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School in South Burlington.

Marino, who works as a bank teller, admitted that his idea for the collective "started rather selfishly": He had a bucket list of chamber works he wanted to conduct. He conducted Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring a year ago in a soft launch of the group, as Vermont Contemporary Chamber Players. The Coffee Cantata opens a full season that includes an exploration of the works of Leonard Bernstein.

Funding, for now, comes from donors, ad sales and some of Marino's own money. Eventually he will seek nonprofit status, but in the meantime he is eager to enrich Vermont's music scene.

When Seven Days met Marino — not for coffee but a salad — he mentioned the "incredible network of musicians that already exists" in the state. "The collective is there to tie it together formally," he said. "I want to make the community as a whole a more musical place to be in."

The original print version of this article was headlined "A New Chamber Collective Perks Up a Café With a Coffee Cantata"

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